The holiday’s are over. I know for many people it was a season full of too much eating, partying, shopping, spending, sugar, worry, and stress at the same time getting too little sleep, relaxation, healthy foods and exercise. And the results? Pants that are too tight, nights that are too long, and feelings of the winter blahs and blues.
Whether it's the after holiday crash, the lack of light, or realizing all of January, February and March are ahead of us, these winter blahs and down feelings need to be nipped in the bud. Too many of us simply let ourselves feel down, curl up on the sofa under a blanket, grab the channel changer, and a bag of chips, and become one with the furniture. Let's take a look at other ways to beat those winter blues without packing on the pounds...
- Smile even if you don't feel like it. Get off the sofa, put a smile on your face and try to pretend that you are happy. Research supports that facial expressions can change the way you feel inside; fake it 'til you make it.
- Don’t skip meals and be sure to start your day with a good breakfast. When your blood sugar level goes down, it's easy for your mood to go down, too.
- Reach for healthy carbohydrate (carb) sources. Carbs promote serotonin release, a "feel- good," opiate-like neurotransmitter in the brain. Reach for the carbs in fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains every day. A low carbohydrate intake (such as one slice of bread or 20-40 grams/day) has been shown to increase depression, anxiety and anger feelings.
- Minimize the sugar. Sugar digests so quickly that it brings down your blood sugar, and with that, can bring down your mood.
- Eat a Little Dark Chocolate. The antioxidants present may in fact lower the stress hormone cortisol. People under high levels of stress who ate 1.4 oz. dark chocolate daily, experienced a reduction in stress hormones, including cortisol. Chocolate lovers, beware: this serving comes with 230 calories attached!
- Saffron, the most expensive herb on the market, has been shown to have an antidepressive effect by making serotonin more available to brain. I'm not suggesting to rush out and buy a bunch of saffron and to make tea to lift your mood, however. With any herb, you have to consider possible interactions with other medications you are taking, or the fact that some herbs do act as medications themselves. Before taking any herbal supplements, discuss possible use with your physician.
- Omega-3’s help brain cells communicate and enhance the way two neurotransmitters--dopamine and serotonin--work to regulate mood. Omega 3's can be found in salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, herring, walnuts, and flaxseed. People with lower blood levels of omega-3’s seem to have higher incidents of mild to moderate symptoms of depression
- Set a date to walk with a friend; if it’s not too cold, there is nothing better than a little fresh air and time to talk with a good friend and burn off all those extra cookie calories you may have over indulged in.
- Exercise, just do it! When you get your body in motion it gets the blood flowing to every cell in your body, bringing fresh oxygen, which helps increase mental alertness.
- Hugs. Human touch releases uplifting endorphins such as serotonin, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, increases relaxation and contentment.
- Volunteer. There's a wonderful, uplifting feeling that comes from helping someone else.
- Declutter and organize. This one is a tough one for me, but a great one for positive mind and spirit. Don't tackle too much at a time, or you may feel even more down. Organize one small area at a time, and feel the positiveness grow one drawer at a time!
- Shop for yourself. Grab all the cash, checks and gift cards you were given and give yourself an afternoon to spend them all on yourself. Be sure to treat yourself to your favorite skinny holiday latte flavor before it’s gone for the year!
- Sleep. 7-8 hours each night if you can. Too little sleep can certainly bring those blahs on.
- Pet your pet; increases serotonin. See Hugs!
- Change your routine. Sometimes, just a new arrangement to your day brightens your outlook.
- Find some light. Eat with a lighter touch, sit in more light, have a lighter attitude, have a lighter heart...
- Laugh. Pop in a comedy movie, read a humor book, call a friend and laugh over great memories. Laughter actually brings about positive changes in those brain chemicals!
- Music can change your mood. Put on your favorite, uplifting music.
- Get Support. Call someone who you know cares about you; a friend, family member or reach out to your support group.
- Wear something bright and happy and ditch those dark colors! Studies have shown that colors do impact your mood. Try colors that make you feel good...red, yellow, pink?